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Canada to extend Griffon helicopters

An RCAF CH-146 Griffon seen during an earlier deployment in Afghanistan. The fleet of 85 helicopters will be extended through to the early 2030s. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

Canada is to extend the service life of its Bell CH-146 Griffon fleet, with a nearly CAD800 million (USD632 million) upgrade of 85 helicopters announced on 31 May.

The Griffon Limited Life Extension project will see the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) medium-twin helicopters refurbished and modernised to keep them in service until at least the mid-2030s, the government said. The Griffon is a military variant of the civil 412EP helicopter.

Under the contract, the CAD90 million definition phase of which was launched in 2019, Bell will perform modifications on the first nine Griffons, and will then manage a competitive process to sub-contract suppliers to install modifications on the remaining 76 helicopters. The work will include replacing some of the aircraft's avionics systems, including communications radios and cryptographic equipment, cockpit voice and flight recorders, navigation systems, automatic flight control systems, and control display units; upgrading the cockpit displays; upgrading the Pratt & Whitney PT6T‑3D engines; and integrating new sensor systems. The project will also upgrade flight simulation and training devices to ensure alignment with the fleet modifications, and the provision of equipment and spare parts.

The first upgraded aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2023, with the remainder to follow through to 2028. Initial operational capability will be declared in 2024, with full operational capability following in 2027.

The RCAF CH-146 fleet is used for tactical transport, emergency response, as well as search-and-rescue, and is located at Bagotville, Quebec; Borden, Ontario; Cold Lake, Alberta; Edmonton, Alberta; Gagetown, New Brunswick; Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador; Petawawa, Ontario; Saint-Hubert, Quebec; Trenton, Ontario; and Valcartier, Quebec.

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